HEY I JUST MET YOU AND THIS IS CRAZY BUT HERE’S MY SUMMER SO FAR AND IT’S FILLED TO THE BRIM WITH THEATRE

Hi friends!

 

How are you all doing?! I hope you’re all having wonderful super fantastic coolness remarkable summers so far!

 

Oh golly, I sure am!

 

I got the okay to do a Midsummer Afternoon’s Update Post, since today is my day off from work…and because my summer vacation is technically more than halfway over at the point. And I’m beyond excited for fall semester. I literally scream how excited I am every day, usually while driving, and in between songs on the radio or my iPod. Florence or 1Direction will stop singing for a moment and I’ll scream at the top of my lungs “I’M SO EXCITED FOR SCHOOL OH MY GOD.”

 

But. We are not here to talk about autumnal things. We are here to talk SUMMER.

 

So, let’s see. What’s happened since I left campus on May 12th? What hasn’t happened is the real question. I haven’t died or been trampled by an elephant, so there’s two things that haven’t happened. There’s so much to discuss and I know I seem like I’m rambling on and on about what’s happened because so much has happened that I don’t know where to start. I’ll go in order.

 

Things That Have Happened to Me This Summer So Far

 

1. After a long and arduous search, I finally got a job. I’m working 40+ hours a week at a country club near my home. It’s fun. I’m a janitor. Like…What? Yes, I am a maintenance man and I have my own set of keys and everything. Ask me to get any stain out of anything. I can do it. I swear. The members of the club are rough-and-tumble Irish Americans, mostly. So it’s interesting dealing with them. But the waiters in the dining room are a LOT of fun to work with. And my sister works at the pool at the club, so it’s nice to visit her when she’s working. Mainly, my job consists of vacuuming and then doing nothing else. So.

 

2. I’m assistant directing a musical in the next town over. It’s called All Shook Up. It takes a sort of mash up of the stories of William Shakespeare’s plays As You Like It and Twelfth Night, puts them in the Midwest in the late 1950s, and sets the story to the music of Elvis. If that combination brings to mind the words “That sounds awful,” your mind is correct. The script is very badly written and the gender studies scholar in me has a problem with almost every page. But if you look past the gender stuff and the racism stuff in there and just accept how ridiculous it is, it really is a fun show. The cast is unbelievably talented, these kids are all stars. My sister is the female lead and I love all of the other kids, and working with the director Tommie is so much fun. He’s let me take control of the first scene and a half of the second act, which included a musical number I was lucky enough to stage. Gospel robes are involved. Let that sink in. But yes, I’m learning a ton and having a blast working on the show. Meow. AMIRITE?

 

3. I’ve seen a TON of theater. And by a TON I mean 15 plays or musicals and one award ceremony, but the award ceremony will get its own post. I will now tell you about every single experience. Be prepared because I have a lot of thoughts. These are plays I’ve seen on, off, and off-off Broadway.

A. The Lyons – I saw this after an interview one Monday (I think) evening. I had had an interview for an internship and I was right by the theater and I love the writer Nicky Silver. And the lead actress, Linda Lavin, who is fabulous. The show closed because it was doing quite poorly. Linda Lavin was incredible as this awful Jewish New Yorker whose husband is dying of cancer and whose daughter is an alcoholic and whose son makes up relationships with nonexistent boyfriends. Needless to say, the show was hilarious. But a hot mess of a plot that left me feeling, “HUH?” at the end.

B. Priscilla: Queen of the Desert – The Musical – Something I’ve been working on in the last year of school and since becoming interested in gender studies is my fear of drag queens. They seriously scared the scheisse out of me until maybe January. Anyway, I’m over that fear now, and on Memorial Day got really cheap tickets to see this musical. It also closed, but it had a much more successful and longer run than The Lyons did. I never expected to cry during a musical that featured the disco classics of the 70s and 80s and starred two fabulous drag queens and one even more divalicious transsexual. But I did, because the story of the three gals hitting the open highway and traveling across Australia was a beautiful story about acceptance and family. I wept at the end and had tears in my eyes as I gave a mostly deserved standing O. I had some issues with the story, but still. It was a very fun evening at the theater. Very campy.

C. Sleep No More – This interactive experimental piece of theatre was one of the most gorgeous and terrifying things I’ve ever seen. I loved every minute of it. It’s based on mostly Macbeth with a bit of Hitchcock’s Rebecca mixed in. First off, let’s talk about the location of this place, because it’s a doozy to find. It’s down on 28th, near all the warehouses and shipping terminals west of Highline Park. The building has one sign, indicating The McKittrick Hotel, where the performance/experience is housed. The McKittrick is actually three giant warehouses that were joined for this piece, created by the British theatre ensemble Punchdrunk Emursive. And when they say Emursive…they mean it. You are totally immersed in the world of the story. Anyways, after eating a delicious turkey burger by myself, I headed over to the creepy looking warehouse. Online, I met my friend Gab and her friends. It was just a coincidence that we were there at the same performance. I was alone, she was there for her friend’s birthday. We’re online and nervous, Gab is shaking because she’s so nervous. We check our coats and bags and head to the box office, where we are each given a playing card. Then we head upstairs through a dark labyrinth which made me excited and made Gab nearly have an accident because she was so scared. So then we get into the bar, which looks like a 1920s speakeasy. We use the bathroom (TMI?) and are then told it’s time for us to head into the hotel. On line for the elevator. We are given a Venetian Bird masquerade mask and ushered into a small room, where a beautiful woman named Celeste gives us instructions for the evening.  1. We are not allowed to take our masks off for the entire time we are in the hotel. 2. We are not allowed to speak for the entire time we are in the hotel. 3. We are allowed to open drawers, look through papers, search for hidden rooms, get as up close and personal with the hotel guests (actors) as we would like provided that we do not touch them. And 4. FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD. Fortune favors the bold, huh? Gab, her friends and I are pushed into the elevator with the rest of the group. The elevator man takes us to the 6th floor. The doors to the elevator open. He pushes one audience member out into a blinding red light. Then he closes the elevator door and takes us to the third floor. We get out, and I separate myself immediately from Gab, since I wanted to experience the performance alone. I go to the 5th floor and start rifling though drawers and wandering around until I find an actress to follow, she was playing the nurse. I follow her quite intently and am the first one to get what’s called a one-on-one. She reaches out her hand, silently (there was no dialogue in this whole thing, by the way) and pulls me into her nurse’s office. She removes my mask and I’m nervous and she’s so close to my face I think she’s gonna kiss me. She tells me to remain quiet. I do. She lays me on a daybed of some sort, wraps me in a blanket and climbs on top of me, straddling me. I’m so uncomfortable. That’s sort of the point. Music begins to play from somewhere. She hits some sort of light and the entire room glows in blacklight, the walls are covered with lines from Macbeth. I’m looking around reading the thing, and the music is getting louder and louder and the nurse begins to cough. And cough. And cough. And cough. And then she coughs one last time and a nail falls out of her mouth and on to my face. Nice. And she SCREAMS, rips the blanket off of me, puts my mask back on, straightens out my shirt, and says “You mustn’t tell.” I’m telling you now, so sorry Nursey Baby XOXO. I nod, and she shoves me out the door, which she slams behind me. I wait for a bit and continue to follow her for the first two hours of the piece (which was 3 and a half hours long, by the way.) The piece cycles through 3 times over the course of the evening, each cycle with several subtle differences, so by the beginning of the third cycle, I knew what was coming. At around the two hour mark, when the third cycle began, the nurse is doing what I’ve referred to as a “suicide dance” in a window between a  hospital bathroom and a forest. She throws herself out the window, and instead of taking the door into the maze of a forest and struggling to find the nurse in there, I just jump through the window and follow her. Fortune favors the bold. In the forest (not an actual forest, just a room designed to look like a dark forest – suspense of disbelief, am I right?) there is a hut. And in this hut lives a young woman. The nurse and the young woman have an encounter that ends with me being pulled into the hut with the young woman and away from the nurse. Bye bye Nursey! I got another one-on-one experience. Most people don’t even get one one-on-one. The odds of getting 2 in a night are extremely low. EXTREMELY. This one was scary too. The entire thing was scary. She made me tea and fed it to me with a spoon. She took my mask off, of course. She gave me the tea to drink and began to tell me a story that ended with her throwing my tea across the room, breaking the teacup, and grabbing my arm so hard I thought it would bruise, and yelling at me in a demonic voice. I think I’ve given too much away already, so I’ll end my thoughts about Sleep No More by saying I want to to back. Again. And again. And again. Because three and a half hours might seem like a long time. But in three and a half hours, you will not be able to see all of Sleep No More or all of the McKittrick. It’s just that extensive. It’s that Emursive. It was one of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen.

D. Olives and Blood – This play was a mess, a big mess. Gab invited me and my best friend Alexia to see the play with her, she got comps through her internship. Before the show, we met at Gab’s dad’s restaurant, Centrico. He owns that, along with Nobu, Nobu Next Door, Tribeca Grill, Nobu 57, and a few others. Gab’s dad is a big big deal in the NYC food industry. So we got some outstanding Mexican food for dinner before the play. But then the play happened and it was a mess. Plot-wise, acting-wise. Mess.

E. Luther – Directly after Olives and Blood ended, we went upstairs (O&B was in the basement performance space at HERE Arts Center) and I saw that a theatre group whose work I admire, Clubbed Thumb, was performing their show there that evening. The play as called Luther and two of my friends from playwriting class last semester happened to be interns for Clubbed Thumb. So I decided to have a late night and see another play! 2 in 1 night! Whoa! The play was very funny but quickly took a turn for the serious towards the end. Quirky, original, funny, great acting, amazing set design. Overall I left with a smile on my face.

F. Shakespeare in the Park presents As You Like It – No words. No words. No words. Shakespeare in the Park is not just a play. It is a day-long experience that can only be fully realized when you wake up at 3:foam to get on a 4:15am train, toting a backpack filled with supplies for all types of weather and several changes of clothing and a few books that you plan on reading all day while on line but ultimately do not. On June 13th, I woke up at an ungodly early time of day, picked up my friend Sarah, and got on the train to the NYC. We met our friend Laura in Penn and rushed up to Central Park where we waited all morning long in the rain for FREE tickets to As You Like It. At 1pm, we got our tickets and went to get lunch and then we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then we met our friends Emma and Alexia (have I mentioned her before?) and got dinner and went to the show. For the three hours and 20 minutes of the show, I didn’t stop smiling. They set it in 1800s West Virginia, true Appalachia. Think Winter’s Bone but really classy and in Olde Englishe. The show was hilarious and featured a set change that made my whole body spasm because it was so great. And the performances were given well-earned and -deserved standing ovations. After a long day, Sarah and I got back on the train and headed home. In her high-pitched, squeaky voice, Sarah remarked, with a sigh, “I love this train ride at the end of a Shakespeare day. It’s like you wanna fall asleep but you can’t because you know you have to stay awake so you don’t miss your stop. So you think about what a wonderful day you had.” I don’t know if that’s verbatim, but it sure is the essence of what she said. She’s not as eloquent as that was.

G. Cock – Yes, that is the title and I’m sorry if it offends you. It was in the round. It was an extremely well-written play. It was extremely well-acted. It was extremely funny. And the last moment of the play took my breath away. It’s about a guy who breaks up with his boyfriend and then subsequently meets the woman of his dreams. Choices. So funny. SO touching.

H. Motel Cherry – This was the first of three shows I saw in three consecutive nights. A strange drama about a motel. Good performances. Good set. Good overall. Perfect sound design. There was one bit when a helicopter descended into the parking lot of the motel. I flinched because I was afraid I was going to get hit. Also, talk about a cute little moment here before the show: I ran into a playwright I know, the woman who wrote the play I directed first semester last year! We’re friends now and that’s cool. I’m actually seeing her in a play this Friday and am super excited. I’m going with Alexia. Have you heard of her?

I. Clybourne Park – This play won the Pulitzer Prize, Olivier for Best Play, and the Tony Award for Best Play all within a year. Cool beans, huh? I decided to see this play on a whim (even though I’d been waiting to see it since I read the script last year and loved every page). People have mixed feelings about the play, because it’s about racism. I on the other hand, loved every minute and it lived up to all of my expectations. Super exciting staging, super exciting acting, and a set design that is perfect. And the final 10 minutes of the play rip your heart out. I texted my friend at intermission that the play was so good I wanted to throw up.

J. 3C – Whoa! This one was downtown. I rushed like hell from work to get there. Work ended at 5:30 and the play began at 7:00 on the dot, meaning I had to take an hour train ride and 15 minute subway ride and found the theater which was extremely hidden from the public eye. Jessica Dickey, the playwright I mentioned above, got me the ticket to this piece. It’s by a writer whose work I like, and I was surprised at the end. It was not his best work, but it left me feeling delightfully uncomfortable. Awesome performances, and one bit of beautiful and surprising nudity.

K. Evita – I was online for cheap tickets for this show at 7am. The show was at 8pm. The show was disappointing. My sister loved every minute of it. I disliked just about every minute of it. The music is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best and the set was too perfect. But. The performances were weak and the production boring with very repetitive choreography.

L. Peter and the Starcatcher – The best standard piece of theatre I’ve seen all summer by far and so far. And by standard I mean in a seat in a theater and not Sleep No More, because that’s just too special. Peter and the Starcatcher is the story of how Peter becomes Peter Pan. What was special about this play was how low tech it was. Sure, there was beautiful lighting and music and the set was beautiful and also simple. But the actors created the special effects themselves with items you can find around your own home. Innovative doesn’t even begging to describe the direction in this piece. At one point, the female lead, Molly, flies with the help of a ladder. And you totally forget that she’s sitting on a ladder and gasp because she’s effing flying. The performances were amazing, the script was very funny and moving. You’re laughing the entire time and then in the last 10 minutes you realize you’re crying. When the final blackout occurred, I just gave up on holding back sobs at let out 2 or 3 loud ones in the applause between the end of the show and the curtain call. I’ve never been on my feet so fast for a curtain call in my whole life.

 

3a. I went to the Drama Desk Awards and schmoozed with all of New York Theatre. So the Drama Desks are like the precursor to the Tony Awards and include all of New York theatre: on, off and off off. The morning of the ceremony, I received a telephone call from my friend Torrence, yes that’s his name (Starbucks recently misspelled his name as Corn. Okay.) who told me he had a free ticket to the Drama Desks that night. I screamed and said yes. We met on the train, all schnazzed up for the show. We got to the Town Hall and were in the last row of the balcony. Which was fine because Town Hall is teensy. Before the show even started, I couldn’t count on my hands and feet how many people who I was a fan of I had seen. And spoken to. Philip Seymour Hoffman shook my hand, I bumped into Kelli O’Hara, I said hello to Chris Gattelli, the choreographer of Newsies, to name a few. Then the show began and was a lot of fun. Afterwards, I met like everyone. Audra McDonald, Stephanie Block, Brian d’Arcy James, Brooke Shields, these names mean nothing to you unless you know commercial New York theater. It was really exciting. And I met one of my favorite playwrights ever and was shaking like I had a disease when I shook his hand. It was a great great night.

4. Oh hey, I lost 22 pounds so far. Hot yoga 2 times a week and not eating as much. The way to go. And a lot of water, booboos. Health. Summer Shape-Up 20!2.

5. Oh, by the way MY PLAY IS BEING READ IN NEW YORK CITY NEXT WEEK. This is a huge deal. The reading is being presented through Dreamcatcher Entertainment NYC’s Talent on Tap reading series. You should all come. And by all I mean anyone who happens to read this between now and the 23rd of July. OH MY GOD IT’S NEARLY AUGUST ALREADY THIS IS TOO MUCH.

 

So that’s it so far.

A casual picture of me on my bed wearing my Sleep No More mask. My walls are so bare because my room is being redone next week.

 

Measure in Love,

 

Kev Kev.

About Kevin Berry

jamba juice. mennonite. enneagram.
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